Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 5, 2019

First Ashes Test Day Four – The Final Over of the Day

England announce surprise replacement for Jimmy Anderson in Second Test squad

Ball One – Watch it, wait for it, hit it

There is so much that looks unique / clumsy / ugly about Steven Smith that one can lose sight of the one thing he does better than any other batsman in this match, well, maybe since the game was invented. Sometimes covered by proxies like “has a great eye” or “he favours the back foot”, it’s so plain that he plays the ball later than I’ve ever seen anyone play it. Sounds easy, but the mental discipline required to watch the ball all the way on to the bat, to move hands and feet to every ball’s line and length, to respect the good balls and hit the bad – well, it’s a near miraculous feat of concentration and forbearance in these days of white ball slogfests and 300 runs plus days in Test cricket. One wonders why nobody else has tried it – the answer is that it’s very, very hard to do.

Ball Two – Smith sends the crowd into… slumber

Maybe it was the soporific tinge to the atmosphere so soon after Sunday lunch; maybe it was the fact that one scoreboard was stuck and not everyone knew the precise state of the match; maybe it was the sheer inevitability of it. The crowd’s reaction to Steven Smith’s second century of the match was (at best) muted and (at worst) indifferent. Okay, they had been disappointed by a lacklustre couple of hours cricket from a flat England side, but one might have expected a little more recognition of something really very special indeed. Brits are still pretty good at creating sporting theatre – take almost any match at the recent World Cup – but a sullen sulk in the face of opposition brilliance does nobody any favours.

Ball Three – New ball, old problems

By mid-afternoon, England hadn’t quite given up, but the new ball was available and not taken. Since Stuart Broad had bowled just nine overs on the day and Chris Woakes five, a 15 minutes or so delay in reaching for the shiny cherry seemed negative, even if Root might have thinking about limiting the time to bat out the draw rather than dismissing Australia. The new ball instantly brought an LBW appeal answered in the affirmative but, somewhat inevitably, Joel Wilson was soon swinging his arms yet again, as DRS indicated that the ball was going over the top by a distance. What a match for the umpires!

Ball Four – Smith improves Australia’s chances even when he gets out

After a horrible, rusty wide from Woakes, his second ball induced a tired slash at a ball almost as badly directed and Jonny Bairstow took the catch in front of first slip – Smith out at last. The Australian lead was 241 with four and a bit sessions left in the match. The draw receded – weather permitting – and, counterintuitively, an Australian win probably became a little more likely, as a “safe” declaration on Monday looked less probable than an all out total on Sunday evening. Funny old game – but Root wasn’t laughing.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

Australia A, Australia Under-19s, Australian Centre of Excellence, Australian Institute of Sports, Tasmania Institute of Sport, Tasmania Second XI, Tasmania Under-17s, Tasmania Under-19s, Tasmania Under-19s – just some of the teams for whom Matthew Wade has turned out. Two years on from his last Test and nearly seven years since his last century, Wade reversed swept Joe Root to notch a third Test match ton and send the Australian lead towards 300. At 31 and with a wicketkeeper captain to get past, Wade might have thought his time had passed, but he seized his chance to ride on Steven Smith’s coat-tails and play a crucial innings for his country – and his career.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

It’s often said that nothing improves a player’s reputation like a spell on the sidelines. England got half a glimpse into a post-Jimmy Anderson future, as the ball was hit to various parts of the West Midlands, and it did not look very pleasant at all. Okay, there’ll be days when the first choice spinner bowls like a first choice spinner and when the other opening bowler can get through more work, but the promise of Jofra Archer, the pace of Olly Stone and the cunning of Sam Curran have a yawning ravine to bridge when the Lancashire man joins us in the Media Centre permanently. Which suddenly feels fairly imminent.

 

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Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 4, 2019

First Ashes Test Day Three – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Who’s winning?

They call the third round of a golf major “Moving Day” but I’ve never really understood why the others are static. At the start of Day Three of this Test, it certainly looked like a moving day, as England sat poised to take a lead and (probably) to “go ahead” in the match around lunch. Of course, Australia’s bowlers, with a pitch that looks more like a fourth day one than a third day strip, might have something to say about that. Throwing the match even further forward, one has to think that if England are ahead at the end of the day (barring a freakishly unlikely score like Australia 100-0, 2 runs behind), then Joe Root will fancy his chances of closing out the win. And if Steven Smith is out before the Sunday roast is carved, Root can start rehearsing his victory speech. Hubris, though Gary, hubris…

Ball Two – Starc staring and mad not to be playing

Australia didn’t do much more with the ball than they did the previous day, but four wickets came along in one session rather than three, as Ben Stokes swished, Rory Burns missed one that bowled him and Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow… well, let’s not go there. But England’s collection of all-rounders and batsmen who bowl aren’t often going to fail so dismally collectively and Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad joined forces to add a few. And a few in a low scoring match can make quite a difference. I suspect Mitchell Starc might have restricted that few to a handful, but he was only watching, his feet up and his powder dry – I suspect we might see more of him at Lord’s.

Not in fancy dress, not singing nor having bantz with David Warner.

Ball Three – Hollering Hollies Stand

There’s always a lot of talk about the impact of the crowd on a sporting occasion: winners say they are inspired; non-winners say it doesn’t bother them. After two and a half days of raucous support for England from the Hollies Stand, it would be disingenuous to say that the shouts, the cheers, the applause and, yes, the boos, make no difference. During an impressive ninth wicket stand, Woakes and Broad were in no doubt that their efforts were appreciated and that every run was vital. No professional should ever allow complacency to creep into their work, but we all know that it can – though not with that crowd behind you.

Ball Four – Umpires’ empire collapsing

Umpiring is really difficult. I’ve umpired countless overs in club cricket and the concentration alone is demanding, never mind the judgements. The hardest ones to call were the run outs – how are you supposed to look at the wicket being broken at the same time as seeing bat and dust fly in the air as a barely visible whitish grey line is crossed? But these are the best umpires in the world (who are not English or Australian) and they have had an absolute shocker. How Joel Wilson failed to see or hear a firm edge from the bat of David Warner as the ball went through to Bairstow beggars belief. Aleem Dar is due to stand at Lord’s and Wilson at Headingley, but both look like they need a spell out of the limelight – or for each team to have six reviews per innings.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

Unsurprisingly, on a disjointed day in which neither side batted with much fluency, Steven Smith looked by far the most assured batsman on show. Not quite as twitchy in the second dig as he was first time round, he just got in behind the ball and watched it all the way on to a straight bat. Even his most troublesome delivery – slowish bouncer from Ben Stokes which bopped him on the helmet – was the product of his willingness to get in behind the ball and wear one if necessary. He really is playing a different game to anyone else, quite something after over a year out of Test cricket.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

Nathan Lyon, as sometimes happens to class bowlers, got the rewards today that his work deserved yesterday, the combination of sidespin, overspin and dip accounting for a weary Rory Burns, a hopelessly out of touch Moeen Ali and a hobbled Jimmy Anderson. Lyon, for all the absence of luck on Friday, never let his head drop and his figures of 43.5 – 8 – 112 – 3 were a fair reflection of a bowler who knows his craft and how to make the most of it on any wicket even if things go against him. Ominously, despite England being well placed in this match, Australia have much the most accomplished batsman and spinner on show, both of whom are only likely to get better as the series progresses.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 3, 2019

First Ashes Test Day Two – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – A quiet morning – except when it wasn’t.

The English Test summer to date had yielded 927 runs and 50 wickets, an average of 93 runs and five wickets per session – frenetic seems too soporific a word for such manic action. So its 11th session’s 61 runs and one wicket in a morning of old school(ish) Test cricket felt like a return to past times. But it was never dull, indeed many would claim that the wrestle for the initiative was more absorbing than the clatter of boundaries and wickets. That said, Joe Root was fortunate to survive a delivery from James Pattinson that hit the stumps hard but failed to dislodge the bails and Rory Burns had his slice of luck when Nathan Lyon failed to review a not out decision that was shown to be hitting leg stump. Test cricket doesn’t really do boring any more.

Ball Two – Root and Burns painstakingly construct a platform

Halfway through the 12th session of Test cricket, the second 100 partnership of the season was registered, Burns and Root following in the unlikely footsteps of Jack Leach and Jason Roy. It took 34.2 overs, a pedestrian run rate of just under three an over – prompting Michael Vaughan to remark that Australia were controlling the run rate well, as if it mattered. Root had battled through a tough start and was beginning to time the ball, but Burns was ugly and lucky, edges not going to hand. But runs is the only currency in which batsmen trade and Root and Burns knew that their hard work in taking bowlers into third and fourth spells would give the opportunity to cash in later as tiring bowlers flogged a soft ball into a docile surface. It’s not glamorous, but it is effective.

Rory Burns today

Ball Three – Rory blows hot and cold

Watching much 21st century sport can be a gruelling experience of admiring techniques forged in the fire of 10000 repetitions. Rugby players execute their skills at the breakdown, rolling round to get on the right side of the ball; tennis players repeat serves, groove top spin backhands and whip forehand passes; F1 drivers hit apex after apex, tight to the racing line as dictated by telemetry. But cricket doesn’t really reduce to mechanical routines. Plenty has been said about the ticks and twitches of Steven Smith, who posted 144 yesterday. Today, considerably more sketchily, Burns scored 125*, an innings of awkward squats, crooked stances and bizarre head swivelling – like a drawing by Arthur Rackham into which life had been breathed. Lest we forget, Smith and Burns are batting in Test cricket, the same art as practised by Greg Chappell, VVS Laxman and Mark Waugh. They find their own way.

Ball Four – Time Gentlemen Please!

Of course on another day, things would have been very different because there’s no game like this game for making fools of those who claim to know stuff. But it seems obvious to me that England need to bat time more often than they do, settling in to sessions that yield 70 or so runs for a wicket (or two at most). In Jason Roy at opener and Jos Buttler at five, England deploy mercurial talents who can destroy any attack. But they do not bat time. In aggregate, the pair have played 177 First Class matches not including this Test – and made 14 centuries, with a highest score of 144 (Buttler: Roy’s is one fewer). This Test is Rory Burns’s 124th First Class match during which he has made his 17th ton with a top score of 219 not out. Even Santa Claus only needed one Dasher…

Ball Five – Bowler of the Day

The Australians might look at their figures and wonder how that could possibly be true. They stuck to their task on a pitch that gave them a bit, but not very much, and they had less luck than a two-leaved clover. None more so than James Pattinson, back in Test cricket after a three years hiatus, having faced down the physical and mental challenge of overcoming a major back operation. He bowled fast, with hostility, discipline and stamina, but had only the wickets of Roy and Buttler to show for his considerable efforts. He’ll wake up stiff tomorrow morning, but knows that he’ll have to go again and that if he’s still bowling in the middle session, he might be needed to bat well on Sunday too.

Ball Six – Batsman of the Day

The cliché goes, “Rory Burns will never enjoy a luckier innings than that.” And that conjecture may be true, because he played and missed and edged through the slip cordon more times than I can remember. But he’s a certain kind of lucky batsman, in that he’ll never be fluent and so never look really in. His set-up is ugly, his pick-up askew and his balance lurchy, but he has an abundance of other qualities to compensate and make him an effective (if probably never more than that) Test batsman. His mental strength (forged in years when others were called to development tours and he was stuck in the nets at The Oval) allows him – maybe forces him – to focus on the next ball to the exclusion of the doubt that might creep into the consciousness of a more naturally gifted player. That’s a quality that can go a long way in this game – ask another doughty left-handed opener who gave Imposter Syndrome short shrift, Australia’s Chris Rogers. He averaged 48.5 in 15 Ashes Tests, having played his first at the age of 35.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 2, 2019

First Ashes Test Day One – The Final Over of the Day

Steven Smith’s bat

Ball One – Warner fails to heed DRS warning

Not many seats empty at the start of play, not many inside the hospitality boxes either. The feeling abroad is that the series will be short and, well. not exactly sweet, but you know what I mean. In a more elegiac sense, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad bowling to David Warner has been one of the great clashes in cricket, in sport, these last few years – and it didn’t disappoint. Warner probably edged his first ball down the leg side to be caught and the not out decision went unreviewed; he survived an LBW DRS from Broad; he received a very firm word from Aleem Dar about gardening on a line and length; and he was out LBW to a Broad delivery that was going down leg side. 14 balls; 2 runs; lots and lots of boos and lots and lots of incident.

Ball Two – Smith forges ahead with Head

A compelling session of Test cricket concluded with the scoreboard showing 83-3, England having won the first hour, Australia the second. England bowled extremely well in helpful conditions – but so they should on the first morning with cloud overhead. Steven Smith was back in Test cricket after fewer than eight overs and he looked a little rusty against a fired up Broad and hometown hero Chris Woakes. But he started lining the ball up properly, leaving well and England’s change bowlers lost a little focus. Crucially, Smith found a partner in Travis Head, whose four boundaries in ten balls signalled a shift in the balance of play. England need to get Smith out (and you can Cmd C Cmd V that for the next six weeks) because if he finds a partner, Australia will accumulate scores that will keep them in the game – and that might be enough.

I’ve been a fan for quite a while now.

Ball Three – Schoolboy errors, well not even that, scuppers Australia’s middle order

With Anderson unlikely to bowl again in the match, never mind the day, Australia’s batsmen seem incapable of lining the ball up and playing it late. Both Travis Head and Matthew Wade fell LBW, the head, hands and feet all over the place. Smith must have been despairing at the other end, his legendary quirkiness a smokescreen for a technique that brings everything into the right place at the precise moment it needs to be. Much of batting is difficult, especially against bowlers as skilled and motivated as Woakes and Broad today, but these players could perform the basics of batting in the back yard. Why can’t they now?

Ball Four – In, Out, In (the middle)

I’ve long held the belief that the umpires should rotate through each session of the day, so each umpire stands at each end and also does one stint in the DRS booth. Not only would that help with concentration, it would also give some respite if an umpire is having a bad day – because, like anyone else, off days do come along. A chance to gather thoughts without the knowledge that the camera is zooming in on you relentlessly as appeals rain in from fielders and crowd. It’s not an easy job – so why not make it a little less difficult?

Ball Five – Bowler of the Day

The guard could have changed today. Sam Curran and Jofra Archer on the ground and warming up and Olly Stone bowled very fast at Lord’s. But the old firm were selected and Anderson and Broad were tremendous, new ball in hand, clouds overhead. Both beat the bat and Broad, knees pumping, crowd bawling, snared both openers in the first 40 minutes – he could have had more. But Anderson’s injury flared up, breaking up the thousand wickets duo. Broad carried on, nailing the Aussie captain and James Pattinson (with a bit of help from the umpires). But he was powerless against Australia’s imperious ex-captain – but who wouldn’t be? Eventually, he got his man and his fivefer. And a chance to put his feet up.

Ball Six – Batsman of the Day

Steven Smith walked in (boos) at 17-2 and walked off (boos and applause, many on their feet) at 284 all out, his share 144. To say he was head and shoulders above the rest is to posit a freakish humanoid with with an emaciated torso and a giant bonce. Something about as outlandish as Smith’s batting technique, at least in terms of what it looks like. It reminded me of another innings played at this ground a year ago. Everyone who booed Smith will one day tell people that they were there when he scored a century for the ages – with a blush I hope.

Honourable mention – Peter Siddle, who played with a straight bat and drove the half-volleys. Like proper batsmen used to.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 29, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 29 July 2019

So that’s what it looks like

Ball One – World Cup Fever!

“I don’t really follow cricket, but that was incredible!” That’s been said to me three or four times in the last week or so and I expect it’s been repeated to many of you. Cricket has been gifted as big a publicity splash as it’s had since they locked the Old Trafford gates at 9.30am in 2005. So where are our World Cup heroes? Where can you see the World Cup trophy at a local match? How can you feel part of a national occasion? I don’t know. Okay, I haven’t looked very hard, but I shouldn’t need to. Had England won the FIFA World Cup last summer, I don’t think football would have been so reticent in coming forward.

Ball Two – One small step for man (woman and child)

The Vitality Blast lifted off with all the razzamatazz of a MIchael Collins personal appearance, but the matches come thick and fast, so the groups have a bit of shape to them already. The media are more interested in the relentless march of dead rubbers in a regrettably one-sided Women’s Ashes (perhaps due to rights acquired when the series looked a more competitive and newsworthy). But try telling that to the full house at The Oval on Thursday evening, a crowd of men and women, young and old, committed and casual that we’re told only The Hundred can reach. That story was repeated around the country, as the public turned out – as they always do if the weather is hospitable.

Ball Three – AB sees Kent home

Kent enjoy the only 100% record in the South Group after squeaking home eight down with a ball to spare at The Rose Bowl. James Vince’s half century had helped the home team set 146, one of those targets sides fancy to chase down as long as one player makes a score and the others bat around him. Kent were running out of candidates at 41-4, but Alex Blake, 30 now and needing a score in a lacklustre season, kept his head while wickets tumbled at the other end and backed himself to hit 16 off Chris Wood’s last over. A brace of twos and a couple of sixes to finish the game vindicated his decision.

Ball Four – Curran (T) electric after Delport deluge

In The Blast, you’re never far from a shellacking, but redemption is always on hand, calling you over for a coffee and a chat. Take Tom Curran for example. In the first match of the campaign, the World Cup winner was brought down to Earth in the most convincing manner possible. Essex’s South African slogman, Cameron Delport, taking shine to his bowling and going 4, 6, 6, 6, 4, dot, 4, dot, 6, 4, dot, 6, dot, 6, nb, 4 as Curran went for 63 in his three overs, Essex piling up 226-4 in their 15 overs – predictably, a winning score. Six days later, a huge roar greeted a hat-trick (a very good one too) as Curran helped Surrey bowl out a miserable Glamorgan side for 44. For Curran, one fewer over, three more wickets, 60 fewer runs – and redemption.

Ball Five – Lancashire hot points

In the North Group, Lancashire have a 100% record of a kind, their three wins and two no results sending them top of the table. When Red Rose meets White, it doesn’t need a freakishly intense heatwave to stir the blood, so Headingley was a cauldron for the biggest domestic match of the season. After the Lanky batsmen had all chipped in to set a target of 171, the Tykes were favourites at the halfway mark with the required rate under 10 and plenty of batting to come. But Lancashire knew that if they could dismiss West Indian import, Nicholas Pooran (who sounds like a 12th century Pope), the game could turn. Saqib Mahmood clean bowled the mediaeval pontiff with 31 required from 17 balls, and another three wickets went down in the next nine as the squeeze worked. It’s only two points like any other two points, but, as Lancashire fans will attest, it always feels like a lot more when you take them away from Leeds.

Ball Six – Plain sailing for Wessels and Guptill

At Worcester, Durham posted 181-8 from their 20 overs, the kind of score that prompts talk like “If we keep it tight and get a bit of luck, we can win this.” Try telling that to Riki Wessels and Martin Guptill, as explosive an opening pair as you’ll find on the circuit. They had the 50 up after 3.4 overs, the 100 after 6.3, 155 at the halfway mark and the match won after the first ball of the 13th over. Wessels made 74 off 29 and Guptill 86 not out off 31, 15 sixes and 11 fours peppering the boundary boards. They won’t bat like that every week, but if Worcestershire get through to the knockout phase, even if just one of them comes off, they’ll take a bit of stopping.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 26, 2019

Surrey vs Glamorgan T20 – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Sweet Caroline (and Carl and Qadir)

Despite London rain delaying the start and it being still stiflingly hot after a even stiflinglyer hot day following on the stickiest night of the year, there’s barely an empty seat in the house for… Glamorgan. People are glad to be at the cricket, glad to join in with Neil Bloody Diamond and glad to be knocking back a drink or two ten. And the The Oval looks a picture, as the lights take over from the hazy evening sunshine – so who wouldn’t enjoy it? Who cares if the punters can’t count in base six or won’t identify with a county rather than a franchise with a camp nickname or even don’t care that much for the cricket at all? You’re telling me that this is the look of failure?

Ball Two – Fantastic fielding

The fielding is really something isn’t it? Boundary catches are balletic, diving stops athletic and throwing ferocious. Every season, the skills seem a notch or two higher and the outfield is as least as compelling a spectacle as the middle in T20’s manic mayhem.

Ball Three – Not so Fantastic Mr Fox

As happens sometimes in championship games, a fox appeared from the Vauxhall End, evaded the stewards and offered a pithy opinion on the play at deep backward point. Unlike the champo punters, the T20 crowd lapped it up (not literally…) and the scrawny thing was cheered off when it eventually made its retreat (and the man with the shovel roundly booed). They really will greet anything with enthusiasm at the T20 – so you have to buy in, and roll with the flow.

Ball Four – Electric Curran(T) leads the attack

Glamorgan set off in search of 142 for the win with Pakistan’s dasher, Fakhar Zaman, the man most likely. But he would have to do so against six international bowlers, the pick probably the wily Tom Curran, a real handful in the white ball game. One can only speculate as to why anyone would want to dilute this talent by condensing 18 teams into 8 – but the marketing boys must know best…

Ball Five – Hat-trick!

The Oval explodes as Curran seals a hat-trick with Billy Root’s wicket and sets off on an Imran Tahir of the ground. All were good balls too. Glamorgan are 6-3 and the crowd are, as the saying has it, in the game.

Ball Six – Woeful Welsh wobble as Surrey walk it

Glamorgan, rabbits in the floodlights after that start, had no answer to a Surrey side who were enjoying themselves in a season in which smiles have been few and far between. That said, after a largely now forgotten comic interlude with a runner confusing matters during the tenth wicket stand, 44 all out is a tad embarrassing in front of a capacity crowd.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 26, 2019

England vs Ireland Day Two

Is that Mark Adair calling for me again?

Ball One – England smarting as batsmen need to be smarter

Ireland do not have bowlers whom one would describe as world class – but, for some time now, England’s batsmen have not required world class bowling to induce dismissals. So keen are England’s leadership to preach the mantra of “play your natural game” that wide balls are chased, straight balls whipped across the line and short balls attacked with horizontal bats regardless of the pitch’s trustworthiness. That means – as Rory Burns found out early on – that the percentages are against you and bowlers who nag away with questions will eventually (and sometimes much sooner than that) get the answer they’re looking for.

Ball Two – Pluck, luck and no ducks

Luck, though, plays as big a part in cricket as it does in life. Jack Leach seized what chance had offered him (the nightwatchman’s role) and progressed to 60 at lunch with a hitherto unsuspectedly solid technique, hitting the ball along the ground through the covers for runs. It was a conventional knock that would not have looked out of place were it delivered by a real opener rather than the ersatz one he is. Jason Roy had a different kind of luck, missing a few balls for which he reached and might have inside-edged, and avoiding fielders with others smacked in the air. But if he stays in, he scores, and he raised a maiden Test fifty at more than a run a ball with seven fours and one six. Ireland were left pondering the caprice of this most capricious of games, as they tucked into a lunch that no doubt tasted rather less sweet than yesterday’s.

Ball Three – Leach reprieved to suck more blood from the Irish

Karma’s a bitch isn’t it? Yesterday, almost everything went Ireland’s way, a torrent of wickets that included three catches for ex-Surrey wicketkeeper, Gary Wilson. Just when Ireland needed a wicket to reinstate belief that was melting as fast as a 99 at 99F, Wilson dropped a straightforward chance offered by their chief tormentor, Jack Leach, on 72 (with power to add to his highest first class score). It’s a funny old game, but not many Irish eyes were smiling.

Ball Four – Adair redeemed

Mark Adair must have said his “Hail Marys” as a child, because he received a second serving of redemption in two days. After he took a wicket shortly after pinning Jason Roy LBW with a no ball on Day One, he repeated the trick, catching Jack Leach at second slip two balls after dropping him there on 92. It was a fine effort from the England spinner, who might not have batted for 220 minutes across a whole season in the past, never mind an innings. When he departed to a standing ovation, England’s lead was a flimsy 60 – which just goes to show how important the bowler’s batting had been.

Ball Five – Jonny B not very Goode

As was always, if not quite likely, then definitely possible, the end of England’s second wicket partnership of 145 brought a clatter of wickets for a Test batting line-up as flimsy as the ODI batting line-up is formidable. Joe Root selling out Joe Denly with some (primary) schoolboy running didn’t help matters and Jonny Bairstow’s “Holding to Boycott” working over by Mark Adair was as gruesomely watchable as the original. England took tea with five wickets in hand, just 87 runs on, with 150 more required to feel like they are ahead in the game.

Ball Six – England pay a steep price for failure to attend to the basics of batting

England, on the attack as ever, regardless of the match situation or the form of the batsmen, squandered wickets to bowling that was skilled and disciplined rather than inspired and unplayable. Too many batsmen appear contemptuous of the basics of their trade – lining the ball up, playing it late below the eyes, meeting it with the full face of a straight bat. The issue is psychological – against all but mystery spin and 90 mph bowling, they mastered those foundations of batting in their early teens. So why won’t they work the hard yards? Perhaps there’s rather too much carrot and not enough stick from the leadership for the Test arena, which, unlike ODIs and T20Is, punishes such laxity ruthlessly.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 25, 2019

England vs Ireland Day One

Olly Stone gets in amongst the Ireland middle order

Ball One – Roy – a one day king in exile

Jason Roy scored a fortunate 5 displaying many of the faults that make me wary of his place in Test cricket. In the second over of the day, he hit across the line – forcing the issue natch – to be plumb LBW to fellow debutant, Mark Adair. He was saved by a no ball – you could feel Adair’s dismay from 100 yards away. In the next over, Roy’s hands went at the ball while his feet went nowhere and Tim Murtagh induced the edge for a dismissal that is as routine for him at Lord’s as playing for his country is unique. Of course, any opener can be found out early on the first morning of a Test, but the goodwill his World Cup performances engendered will dissipate if Roy fails to work the hard yards before unveiling his array of boundary striking options.

Ball Two – Murtagh on the dancefloor

On a morning that no Irish player, perhaps no Irishman or Irishwoman, will forget, England tasted the thinnest of gruel for lunch, 85 all out. They had – needless to say – not batted well. But the story is Ireland’s bowling, led by Tim Murtagh, who moved the ball both ways from a line and length homing in on the top of off stump at a pace that allowed no easy strike rotating deflections. It was cricket of the highest order from the man playing on his home ground in ideal conditions. The clatter of wickets inspired his team-mates (almost as parsimonious) and scrambled the minds of an England order who know a collapse when they see one.

Ball Three – The best line and length on this pitch is a line and length

Having watched Ireland’s bowlers attack the top of off stump (admittedly at a pace that would send few balls too high), England’s experienced new ball pairing of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes allowed too many deliveries to be left alone, a cardinal sin on a pitch that was nibbling off a length. Batting remained tricky, but the Irish enjoyed whatever the opposite of scoreboard pressure is, as every run took a decent chunk out of England’s lead. Bowling behind a big first innings is always remarked upon as a huge advantage – bowling after a debacle sends you to the other end of that spectrum.

Ball Four -WTF FTP?

At tea, Ireland have a lead of 42, two set batsmen and opponents who look bereft of ideas and the skills to execute them – all in a sunbathed, well-attended picture-perfect HQ. In two sessions, Ireland have made a case for a rematch, maybe even a mini-series. Needless to say, the ICC Future Tours Programme indicates that, up to end 2022, England are scheduled to play precisely 0 Test matches vs Ireland.

Ball Five – DRS and Data Request Selections

I wonder whether the ranks of data analysts who accompany sides these days look at the height of each delivery as it passes the stumps (or how Hawkeye predicts it will pass the stumps)? There have already been two umpire’s calls on height, both of which looked to be missing to the naked eye. But this is – on Day One – a pitch on which few deliveries are getting much above stump high, so reviewing on line alone is a good option. If captains are getting that conjecture confirmed in the intervals or at drinks breaks with stats like “Hawkeye shows that 90% of length deliveries are stump high or lower”, it would lend a degree of confidence in calling for such reviews.

Ball Six – Testing times for Test cricket? Maybe not.

For all the errors with bat in hand and some poor catching, it proved to be an electrifying day of Test cricket, one from which you could not avert your eyes for fear of missing something. That it took place in glorious sunshine was blind luck, but the very decent house owed something to the MCC’s enlightened pricing policy as well as England’s (televised free-to-air) World Cup Final thriller. Viewed up close and personal, Test cricket – dying since 1877 lest we forget – looked in the rudest of health. Again

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 17, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 16 July 2019

Ball One – Yorkshire plunder runs against weakened Somerset attack

Somerset ran into three Yorkshire centurions, as Gary Ballance, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Harry Brook tucked into an attack shorn of Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach. All credit to the Tykes, for whom Keshav Maharaj picked up ten wickets, conceding just above two an over, finding support from Matt Fisher, still only 21, who picked up four wickets to back up a decent performance last week at Chelmsford. Perhaps England Lions selectors should be restricted to one player per county though – slicing away both Gregory’s 44 wickets at 14 and Leach’s 29 at 19 this season seems a little unfair on Tom Abell.

Ball Two – No Sibley, no Sam, so Simon and Siddle supreme

Essex got the other end of the selectors’ red pen, surely happy to lose Jamie Porter given that he was on the same coach to Canterbury as Dominic Sibley and Sam Hain, the only two Warwickshire batsmen with over 125 runs at an average above 30 in 2019. Peter Siddle helped himself to a fivefer first time round, while Simon Harmer – imparting plenty of overspin to his off breaks – finished off the match with 6-75, as Warwickshire’s callow batting predictably failed to deal with experience and class. Olly Stone finished with match figures of 2-141, but he bowled very fast indeed, making set batsmen jump and twitch. Had Test level players edged or gloved a few others missed, he could easily have had six or seven wickets. Nevertheless, Essex go top.

Ball Three – Watch the Virdi

Nottinghamshire have tried everything to force a win in 2019 (except playing consistently good cricket) so, with Ravichandran Ashwin in their ranks for the rest of the season, it may not have been a huge surprise to see a surface conducive to spin bowling served up at the home of Rice and Hadlee. But Surrey dug in with the bat mustering contributions pretty much right through the order, then played an ace card of their own. Amar Virdi is never going to excel at the beep test (I’m not sure Ashwin does either) but the man who turns 21 this week can bowl, his 14 wickets ample demonstration thereof, securing the win for the visitors. After a difficult first half of the season, Virdi seized his chance when it came – usually the sign of a player going places.

Ball Four – Parkinson walks the walk as Sussex fail again

Lancashire put some daylight between themselves and their pursuers at the top of Division Two smashing a Sussex side who are sinking like a pebble dropped off Brighton pier. Almost half of Sussex’s runs off the bat came from Delray Rawlins’s maiden century and some biffing from David Wiese down the order – not really good enough from a side with an experienced top five. Leg spinner, Matt Parkinson, hitherto as out of favour as Amar Virdi, was chief destroyer with a ten-fer, but Glenn Maxwell (yes, that Glenn Maxwell) picked up useful runs and wickets too. as the Red Rose bloomed again.

Police are looking for men known locally as Dawid, Sam and Toby

Ball Five – Middlesex put Welsh dragon to the seax

Middlesex are the form side in Division Two, class players running into nick at the same time, as the Londoners hammered second placed Glamorgan by over 250 runs. England Test men Dawid Malan and Sam Robson both scored big centuries and Toby Roland-Jones (who surely should have been playing for England Lions this week instead of Sam Curran) bagged nine wickets and more handy runs down the order. Middlesex are fifth in a very tight division, but only two points off a promotion spot – somebody is going to have to play very well to deny them that come September.

Ball Six – Anyone looking forward to a break from the County Championship?

So that’s it for the County Championship until a round in mid-August and then the September denouement. Incredibly, the ECB have something even more disrespectful lined up for next season, when the unloved “The Hundred” is foist upon a baffled public. The Champo can trace to its roots back to the early 18th century and, were it hanging on a wall or standing facing a square in a city centre, would be protected from such vandalism. Times change and all that, but there are tremendous scraps going on in both divisions and someone should really tell the powers that be that they can’t simply march the audience out into the street for a few weeks, before inviting them back in for the final act. Sooner or later, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 11, 2019

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 11 July 2019

Ball One – Somerset’s team ethic shines

To win the pennant, you have to win matches – and to win matches, you need to win the big moments. Somerset continue to deliver that brief with an expected, but nevertheless tricky win over rock bottom Nottinghamshire. Having decided to bat at Taunton, the home side were 145-6 halfway through the first afternoon, before Steve Davies and Dom Bess made half centuries to lift their side to 326 all out. Bess (showing the benefit of that loan spell at Yorkshire) then helped himself to a fivefer securing a lead of 85, but Azhar Ali’s 65 not out was the only score of note as a gettable target of 255 was set. Leach and Bess were in business again with six wickets between them, but Jamie Overton shot out the tail and 22 points were in the bag. Someone always stands up for Somerset.

Ball Two – Harmer does the damage – again

And they need to, because Essex despatched Yorkshire with the same ruthless efficiency at Chelmsford. Simon Harmer again led the way with 5-76 and 3-72, his form seemingly impervious to this country’s ever-changing conditions. In 2017, Harmer was second in the Division One bowling table with 72 wickets at 19; in 2018, he was fifth with 57 wickets at 24; and now he has already matched last season’s haul at the extraordinary average of 17. Nobody saw this coming two years ago when he signed Kolpak terms for Essex, surplus to requirements after five Tests for South Africa.

DI Stevens

Ball Three – Investigating DI Stevens’s prospects

Surrey’s limping defence of the pennant continued at The Oval, where they lost to a Kent team who are, man-for-man, arguably weaker from 1-11. Of course, the game is not played on paper, nor is it simply a matter of lining up the talents and totting up the averages. As so often in recent seasons, Darren Stevens epitomised the Kent effort, his first innings figures of 17-4-30-0 a case of “taking wickets at the other end”; while his second innings analysis of 22-4-60-5 set up a target of 121, which was never going to be enough for the Londoners to defend. Stevens has recently played a couple of second XI matches and had been conspicuously absent from these columns (Lewis Gregory getting many of the shouts that Stevens got in previous seasons). At 43, I feared he might be done with red ball cricket – ask four Test match batsmen (Mark Stoneman, Ben Foakes, Dean Elgar and Rikki Clarke) and Jamie Smith, born three years after Stevens’s debut, about that one.

Ball Four – Jeetan’s giants down the order

Warwickshire may be second bottom, but they are showing plenty of the resolve that Nottinghamshire cannot locate. Away at Southampton, they watched on while Ian Holland scored a maiden century and Aneurin Donald found his form at last, the somewhat unlikely pair adding 262 as Hampshire piled up 539, another huge first innings score to bat beneath in a week for the Midlanders. But Sam Hain (in a very welcome return to form) scored twin centuries and 103-6 became, 70 overs later, 347-8 as hands were shaken. At 8, 9 and 10, Ben Mike, Henry Brookes and Jeetan Patel all hung around for two hours or so with little prospect of the win – but they got the draw they played for, and deserved.

Ball Five – Toby buys a jug

With three to go up from Division Two, no county is out of contention, with Middlesex the big movers this week. The 19 points their win over Gloucestershire secured raised them to mid-table with power to add. Toby Roland-Jones’s fitness and availability might prove the difference between promotion and another season in Division Two for the 2016 champions, as he remains one of the most effective cricketers in the country. His 7-52 restricted Gloucestershire’s first innings lead to “manageable” and his 99 runs partnership with Tom Helm for the eighth wicket ensured that he had something to bowl at in the fourth innings, the visitors requiring 216. Three more wickets gave him a tenfer in the match, and Helm and Tim Murtagh ensured TR-J’s efforts were not in vain, Middlesex cruising home despite some spirited late resistance from Graeme van Buuren.

Ball Six – England Watch

In his first senior outing since being invalided out of England’s tour of the West Indies, Olly Stone bagged a fivefer and hurried up county batsmen as he always does – when fit enough to play. For all the excitement around Jofra Archer’s stepping up to the international game, Stone is the quicker bowler and showed much promise in his brief taste of ODI cricket in Sri Lanka. If (always the “if’) he’s fit, he’ll play at Chelmsford in the next round of matches against a red hot Essex side – another fivefer there and he might be an outside bet for a Test spot before the summer is through.

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